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What I Miss About Cow Show Day

Published: Friday, September 14, 2018

Telling Your Story
by Bev Berens

For the most part, I am glad it's over. I was ready to graduate from being a 4-H livestock show mom. I've joined the "Our Kids Used to Show" club.

I don't miss the decorating and accessorizing of stalls. I'm not good or creative when it comes to that. I can copy a crafty idea when I see it but visualizing a blank space then making it look spectacular using dollar store widgets and scraps lying around home isn't me. My home decorating style (or lack thereof) will attest to that fact.

Decorating and set-up always ran over budget. We never seemed to have exactly what we needed when we were 25 miles from home and there is wire but no wire cutter, staple gun but no staples in the toolbox. This led to extra trips to the local hardware store where I always found myself buying things I'd need later in the week, usually at a higher price than I would have paid at my regular retailers. The just-buy-it-now-and-save-a-trip-later mentality took over, leaving my wallet even more depleted for the balance of the week.

I don't miss the extra trips back and forth with hay, straw and grain. It seems that some component would always get used faster than planned, or someone else ran out and wouldn't be able to replace ours until the end of the week or the cattle's digestive systems didn't appreciate the change of water and let us know with a good case of diarrhea. I surely don't miss that.

I don't miss the politics of a county fair. I will leave that statement right there and move on.

I do miss working with the kids and their projects at home when they were little. I miss those times when Mom or Dad was still the teacher, still needed to show them how to do things, or when we had to learn something together. It only took but a few years, and they were independent and were able to move on with projects alone. I guess we succeeded in making them be independent and capable, but I miss the joy of accomplishing and learning together. I am probably being nostalgic and forgetting how arguments and tempers could super-charge. But it's good to let bygones be bygones, right?

I miss watching not only our kids, but all the little ones with their first few projects, especially on show day—all cute and dressed up with a polished-up animal. Cute kid/cute animal is always a combination that makes me smile.

I miss doing project notebooks. I don't miss how they sometimes got pushed off to the last minute. But I loved helping make photo collages to tell the project story, helping with worksheets and organizing things in the binder, then decorating the cover for the final touch.

There is one thing I miss the most:

Show day.

It's not that I miss the actual show ring competition. I miss the family time prior to the show.

Yes, early in the life of our 4-H'ers, we were the managers of show day prep from waking them in the wee hours to hit the wash racks early to the stall cleaning and feeding routines to the grooming and arrival in the show ring. But within a few years, they became the managers—including setting alarms and waking on their own to be at the wash racks by 4 a.m. And we let them be in charge. We let them run the show.

Together, they worked out a system. One would stay at the wash racks and scrub cattle. The other would trade dirty cattle for clean and work on cleaning and bedding stalls systematically down the row. It was efficient.

They had another system for feeding and watering. They worked together and all I had to do was show up with breakfast—very early.

The standard fare needed no utensils; breakfast burritos filled with eggs, meat and cheese, coffee, milk and granola bars or pop tarts for snacking later. This is the time I miss. It is about 6 or 6:30 a.m., the cows are reclining, chewing cud and relaxing. There is plenty of time for us to relax over breakfast and talk. The conversation is cows, who looks particularly good or bad today, calculating the day's winners from the barn. Coffee, cappuccino and hot chocolate are consumed liberally and shared with whomever in the barn had an empty cup.

Soon it would be time for our 4-H'ers to change into dress clothes. Then it was up to the grown-ups to handle manure detail for a short time, which sometimes turned into a long time because one of our 4-H'ers had make-up and hair to bring up to show ring perfection. Beauty takes time.

By now, Gramps showed up to do toplines and it was almost showtime. My favorite time of the show had passed.

If you have never been involved in livestock showing at all, it may be hard to understand the attraction. Yes, it is about the livestock. But in the end, the livestock are the means to making family moments and memories. Sure, we can and do make memories by sitting around a table for meals or playing board games or fishing or whatever. But sometimes it takes a big change in normal activity for special moments and memories to fix into our brains.

It is the small things that give life savor and gusto. Enjoy the small things as they come. Someday, they will be but a memory.

Bev Berens is a mom to 4-H and FFA members in Michigan. Do you have a story to share? Email her at

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